Everything is so sad

I cry a lot lately. A lot of other people might say the same thing.

I am so tired. The world is so sad.

There's a passage in George Eliot's masterpiece, Middlemarch, about this.

“That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. …


Part 2 of I Did a Bodybuilding Competition, Ask Me Anything

On November 23, 2019, I competed as a bodybuilder in a regional competition. It was the culmination of a life-long dream. I come from an academic and creative background, and many friends and former colleagues are unfamiliar with just what a bodybuilding competition entails. I asked them for questions they'd like me to answer, and I got so many great ones that I'm going to need a few stories to get through them. In Part One, I explained things that happen on the day itself. …


Part 1: Contest Day

On November 23, 2019, I competed in my first bodybuilding show. I'm 36 years old. I've been fascinated with bodybuilding since I was a child, and I've been working out for — well, actually, it's tricky to say how long. I've written about my long and rocky relationship with the gym here. The relevant bit: I've been working hard toward this goal for about five years. Even a year ago, it seemed like a far-away maybe-someday kind of thing. But hey! It happened! I did it!

Not only am I a bodybuilder (!), I'm a former (?) academic in the…


I just competed in my first bodybuilding competition. It was a long time coming — something I dreamed of since childhood, believed was impossible for most of my adulthood, and felt was still a long way away even earlier this year.

It still feels unreal, but it happened.

Yes, I am large, metaphysically as well as physically. I contain multitudes, like Walt said. One of those multitudes has been living a very strict and spartan existence for the last four months in order to strip my body of almost all its adipose tissue, put on a tiny pair of shorts…


I went to the gym for a decade before I learned how to workout

There’s a scene in the 90’s animated Spider-Man where Eddie Brock, the human host of the Venom symbiote, is lifting weights in his run-down New York apartment. He’s shirtless, bench pressing what looks like an impressive weight. The camera runs over his arms and torso as he recites, between grunts, a litany of wrongs, imagined and real, that Spider-Man has visited upon him. There are brief flashbacks with each item on the list, played out semi-opaque in front of his sweaty muscular torso. As each one fades and we see him clear, his muscles appear to swell. …


A portrait of the world's 16th most liveable city

Toronto is a streetcar that comes late.

It trundles and it’s full of people, all kinds of people. There are many different languages being spoken. You get on and maneuver toward the back, where there's a little more room. Everyone on the streetcar is unified in frustration at how late and how slow the streetcar is. This unity doesn’t need language. It doesn’t even need eye contact. There aren’t many ways Toronto is like New York, but one of them is how we respect strangers by not looking into their eyes. This makes it special when eyes do meet and…


A personal account of creeping depression

I landed a job in a small city in Ireland right out of my undergraduate degree. It made my hometown newspaper. The paper was an anemic once-a-week publication that barely justified its own existence. Most weeks, not much happens in Placentia (yes, that's it's name), Newfoundland, population 3,800, largest town for an hour’s drive in any direction. And what does happen, you’ll hear about faster, with juicier details, through the tangled webs of interweaving gossip networks. Yet the newspaper persisted.

I loved our little newspaper because I love things that are official and prestigious and impressive-seeming. Having a newspaper elevated…


How lifting weights brought me spiritual peace

I’ll tell you why lifting weights is my form of prayer — and what it has to do with the end of the world.

When I was a child, I would lie in bed at night and pray fervently to God to please not let the apocalypse happen when I was still young. It seemed like a terrible injustice to me — that the world might end before I had a chance to be an adult and to experience all that I wanted to experience. I knew God allowed babies and children to die in the normal course of events…


Sometimes the path out of the closet doubles back on itself

Before I tell the story of how my first boyfriend drove me back into the closet, I need to tell the story of coming out to my mother.

I came out to my mom the week before I left home to begin university. It didn’t go as I hoped it would. I chose mom instead of dad because I thought mom would be easier. Back then, girls and women seemed safer than boys and men. To teenaged me, active homophobia seemed mostly a masculine trait, even though my own father was fairly cosmopolitan and broadminded.

I’ll stop there. I don’t…


Tori Amos and a sad lonely gay teen in rural Newfoundland

You can hear me read a slightly modified version of this story, with clips from the songs mentioned, as a special Pride episode of This Is Your Mixtape: here.

It was in the basement of my cousin’s house, probably in 1996 or 1997. I was 13 or 14. A half-hour about Tori Amos aired on Much Music, Canada’s MTV. …

Michael Collins

Michael Collins almost finished a PhD in literature before jumping ship. He hosts the podcasts This Is Your Mixtape and Dear Reader. He's on twitter @erlking.

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